Life Parkour

Uncategorized Feb 26, 2021

Watch the full video with opening poem on YouTube, here.

Parkour: A sport where you rapidly move through an urban setting, using all of the manmade structures or obstacles as part of your course. So you might see people doing this jumping off of walls, hurdling over light posts and guard rails, etc.

Life Parkour: Treating life’s obstacles and situational limitations, that are NOT concerned or meant for you, and treat them as if they were (loosely quoting Ian Bogost’s Book, Play Anything).

Like manmade structures in a city that were NOT meant for the purpose of parkour and were not created with the athlete in mind, the person who engages in parkour treats them as if they were.

A lot of times we like to do this in a way that harms us. We treat obstacles and limitations as things that ARE put there just for us - AND just to harm us. And we lament, “Why does everything always happen to me?”

We have a choice of how to regard life’s obstacles, and that choice makes life so much more delightful if we consider those limitations and obstacles as we would in sports, like they are the defensive team coming up to block you as you move the ball toward the goal line. As a challenge, you’re meant to figure out how to get around so that you can ultimately reach your goal in this game.

And to clarify here, this is not about trivializing life and treating it as a game. It’s about creating possibilities out of limitations, and choosing whether to remain stuck or to play with the obstacles that end up in your path.

I’ll give you an example of how I’ve learned to do that by telling you about a couple solo camping trips that you might think of as disastrous, but that a little attitude change makes exciting and challenging, even rewarding.

 

TRIP #1

It’s August 2020, and I’m entering the woods on a solo fast for 3 days and 2 nights (if you haven’t heard much about that, I talk about it in the first episode of my podcast, Walking in the Wilderness).

I had expectations - and don’t we all. Expectations cause us to assume things and, at least in my case, always sets us up for disappointment. I expected a blissful, peaceful getaway with nature.

Well, within 5 hours, I was COVERED in ticks. Covered. I had tweezers because I figured I would get a couple, but these were DOZENS of tiny nymphs, crawling all over my hands and feet. That’s not entirely an obstacle I wanted to “play” with, so I called my husband and he brought me some heavy duty bug spray. Then I reluctantly reentered the forest.

Long story short, here were some of my other obstacles along the way:

  • I had to hide from some off-trail hikers a few times

  • The rain was heavy and accompanied by thunder

  • I was much more scared of the dark than I anticipated

Even though I technically addressed these challenges in the very same way as I would have now, my attitude was one of panic, of disappointment, and there was a growing fear that I wasn’t going to get what I wanted to out of the trip.

I came out of it a bit traumatized and cried about it for a few days. I had been sucking up my true emotions about the situation and trying to reconnect with the way I EXPECTED things to go, without allowing these obstacles to move me in a new direction or reshape my experience.

 

TRIP #2

Fast forward to February 2021, when I set off on a spur-of-the-moment overnight trip to test some backpacking gear and to clarify my current direction a bit with some alone time in the natural world.

This trip was arguably worse than the first (minus the ticks), and what happened before I even left is what made the difference. I said to myself, “This is likely not going to be pleasant. I am going to be tired, and I know I did not prepare well enough, so I know things might go wrong. AND, regardless, I’m going to live through it.”

I walked to a regional park 5 miles from the desert ranch west of Phoenix, Arizona where I was living, with a new backpacking backpack to test it out for the grand canyon backpacking trip Anthony and I have coming up in March.

Obstacle #1: I knew pretty quickly this was not the backpack for me. When I got to the park entrance, I was already in pain and exhausted. The pack did not fit right, and I couldn’t get the weight out of my chest and onto my pelvis. The person checking me in at the gate said, “You know, there’s another 3 miles to walk to the campground.” I did not know this. But I said, “Yep!” And reminded myself again that I would not die. I did make it, stopping frequently to lean forward and take easier breaths.

Obstacle #2: Okay, so I made it to the campsite by about 2:30pm, and I set up my tent and started to get out my food because I needed some sodium, I was so hungry, and I figured no need to hold off until a normal dinner time. I got out my camp stove and my propane, only to read the directions (one of the things I hadn’t prepared) and find that MSR, my camp stove brand, requires a special MSR propane tank, so this wasn’t going to work.

Well, I’m in a desert and I have never started a fire in the desert before. On the East coast we have trees. But I managed to find a handful of small sticks (who knows where those came from) and made a tiny fire that I kept going long enough to heat my water and soften my gluten free mac ‘n cheese!

Obstacle #3: I was so exhausted, I ended up going to lay down and was asleep by 7pm, only to be woken up by a massive wind storm around 9:30! Now, I wasn’t able to stake my tent down earlier because the ground was super hard and I was tired, and had forgotten my mallet. So I spent the 2 hours of the windstorm positioning and repositioning myself and my gear in the right parts of the tent so that it wouldn’t blow over like it kept trying to.

I found a good spot, and starting sleeping even with the wind continuing to blow the sides of the tent against me. I remember thinking a few thoughts in those moments during the wind storm.

The first thought was, “what might the wind be trying to tell me?” Followed by, “The wind is the wind for the whole planet, it’s not just for you!” Followed by, you guessed it, the Play Anything quote, that life becomes purposeful when you take things that are not meant or created for you, and treat them as if they are.

And so I started a conversation with the wind. And I fell asleep feeling sure that I was simply being reminded of the game we were playing.

Obstacle #4: I brought cacao and now had no way to heat my water because I used all the twigs I could find the night before, but I remembered that I brought a candle for my candle magic, so I watched the sunrise out my tent while heating my metal mug with cacao over the tiny flame. And it worked!!

All that morning before Anthony came to get me (yeah, I was NOT walking back), I was thinking about the first people on this earth, and how everything was an obstacle for them, and they HAD to look at everything and think, “what could I do with this?” or “how could I make this work?” in order to discover all the amazing things we now have at our convenience today.

In Ian Bogost’s book he also talks about one condition of fun and play, which is to meet and master a challenge. That feeling of mastery creates fulfillment.

Because I followed these obstacles cues, calling forth my creativity and strength, such as the walk I had to take, the ways I needed to heat my food, and how to respond to a wind storm, and I recognized and acknowledged the struggle throughout, I do not feel traumatized this time. I actually feel super empowered and capable. And I think I would say that it was FUN!

So how might we use this in real life? There are so many applications. The bottom line is really just one question - ask yourself, “What could I do with this?” How might you jump off of this urban obstacle like they do in parkour? How might you respond to this barrier being in your way by using it as if it is there just for you?

Please ask yourself these questions over the next few days and let me know what comes up!

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